Kelowna mayor Tom Dyas rolled up to City Hall in the back of an Uber on Tuesday as part of the official launch of the city’s newest ride share company.
“We’re very excited to be in Kelowna today. We are also launching in Victoria. It’s been a bit of a journey, but we are finally here. It’s been about two and a half years, but again, we are excited to be here to provide more alternatives to visitors and residents,” said Uber spokesperson Laura Miller.
Not everyone who showed up to the kick-off was excited about the new service.
A handful of local taxi drivers and local ride-hailing competitor Uride attended the kickoff, with someone throwing out a boo during the news conference.
Uride CEO Cody Ruberto called the boo from the crowd, which did not come from one of his drivers, as "frankly embarrassing" and said his company is eager to compete with Uber. Uride slashed its prices by 30% on Tuesday.
"The whole reason we started was to prevent impaired driving. We think people need options. And for us, we're going to focus on providing the best possible service for all of our riders," Ruberto said.
Dyas told Castanet council is ready to tackle transportation in Kelowna as they make strides towards transportation alternatives.
“Uber provides residents and visitors with another transportation option to get them around the city safely. Transportation is the council's priority and we want to see enhanced capacity and traffic flow on major roads, more trips by alternative transportation and to increase traffic safety. Uber’s ride hailing services help us bring us further along that road to reduce traffic congestion,” said Mayor Tom Dyas.
With more than two million visitors a year, Tourism Kelowna believes this service will be great for peak tourism season, helping visitors get around an increased population.
"When the bars are let out on the weekend, there’s going to be a high need for transportation. We know on long weekends there’s that extra high need for transportation. Those needs are currently not being met during the peaks, but it’s scalable and becomes important for residents at other times as well, so in our minds it’s a win-win," said CEO and president of Tourism Kelowna Lisanne Ballantyne.
As people look to give Uber a try, it’s important to know that the ride share company will not be providing service to South East Kelowna or West Kelowna’s Gellatly Bay for the time being. Uber is expected to expand service to those areas down the road.
**editor's note: this story has been updated to clarify that a Uride driver did not boo the Uber event.